“La Région Centrale” was made during five days of shooting on a deserted mountain top in North Quebec. During the shooting, the vertical and horizontal alignment as well as the tracking speed were all determined by the camera’s settings. Anchored to a tripod, the camera turned a complete 360 degrees, craned itself skyward, and circled in all directions. Because of the unconventional camera movement, the result was more than merely a film that documented the film location’s landscape. Surpassing that, this became a film expressing as its themes the cosmic relationships of space and time. Cataloged here were the raw images of a mountain existence, plunged (at that time) in its distance from civilization, embedded in cosmic cycles of light and darkness, warmth and cold.
La Région Centrale (Quebec, 1971, 180 min., 16mm, color) is arguably the most spectacular experimental film made anywhere in the world, and for John W. Locke, writing in Artforum in 1973, it was “as fine and important a film as I have ever seen.” If ever the term “metaphor on vision” needed to be applied to a film it should be to this one. Following Wavelength, Michael Snow continued to explore camera/frame movement and its relationships with space and time in Standard Time (1967) an eight minute series of pans and tilts in an apartment living room and (Back and Forth) (196869), a more extended analysis. But with La Région Centrale, Snow managed to create moving images that heretofore could no possibly be observed by the human eye. For this project he enlisted the help of Pierre Abaloos to design and build a machine which would allow the camera to move smoothly about a number of different axes at various speeds, while supported by a short column, where the lens of the camera could pass within inches of the ground and zoom into the infinity of the sky. Snow placed his device on a peak near Sept Îsles in Quebec’s Région centrale and programmed it to provide a series of continuously changing views of the landscape. Initially, the camera pans through 360° passes which map out the terrain, and then it begins to provide progressively stranger views (on its side, upside down) through circular and back-and-forth motions.